The Electoral Vote comes from what is known as the Electoral College. The Electoral College was created so that bigger states with more people would not have more of say in who becomes the American president versus states with less people. Historically, some people were not able to travel to voting polls. Therefore, the electoral college was thought to make it fair for rural voters who could not cast their vote (Kimberling, 1992). Each state is entitled to a certain number of electoral votes. For instance, the state of California has 55 electoral votes that are up for grabs, due to its high population, while Alaska has three electoral votes that a presidential candidate is entitled to obtain.
On election day, registered voters cast their votes at the polling place in one’s respective state. All these votes are counted in each state, each state getting a popular vote total. The presidential candidate that wins the popular vote in each state wins that state’s electoral votes. The losing candidate gets no electoral votes in that state. For example, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in California and therefore secured the 55 electoral votes for the state. The final popular vote is the total number of citizens who voted for each candidate. Donald Trump’s popular vote is 62,418,792 votes, while Clinton’s popular vote is 64, 654,455.
The first presidential candidate who gets 270 electoral votes wins the presidency. Most of the time, the candidate who gets more electoral votes also wins the popular vote. However, in the past 15 years, there have been two exceptions. In 2000, President George W. Bush won the electoral vote, while Al Gore won the popular vote. This past month, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by two million votes, but lost the electoral vote to Donald Trump: “He’s the fifth person to win the presidency this way” (Anderson, 2016). Apparently the other three were in the 1800’s. Although most of the time the electoral college mimics the popular vote, the times that it deviates from the popular vote causes social turmoil. Due to this huge discrepancy, many citizens want the electoral college to be repealed and feel that only the popular vote should be used to elect an American President . Since the purpose of the electoral college is to mimic the popular vote, then the electoral college is unnecessary because it does not mimic the popular vote 100% of the time.
In fact, the electoral college is thought to be unconstitutional because of the way that electors can choose to vote against the candidate that they promised to vote for. This has occurred a few times, most recently in 1988: “There have been 7 such Electors in this century and as recently as 1988 when a Democrat Elector in the State of West Virginia cast his votes for Lloyd Bensen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president instead of the other way around” (Leap, 2008). Critics also argue that because the electoral college was set up to assist rural voters, that this is no longer necessary with the advent of transportation and computers. People certainly could cast their vote from afar. Additionally, people criticize the electoral college for encouraging candidates to campaign primarily in swing states in order to improve their chances to get to 270. It seems that the electoral college is an unnecessary mediation between the voter and their preferred candidate.
Senators, like Barbara Boxer, are lobbying to remove the electoral college because it is based upon antiquated irrelevant factors. However, in order to do so, it would require an amendment to the Constitution, needing two-thirds majority voter in House and Senate, plus it would have to ratified by at least 38 states (Anderson, 2016). It is unlikely that the electoral college will be reformed because of the ripple effect of changes that it would require.
- Anderson, M. (2016). Critics move to scrap the electoral college, but it’s not likely to work. NPR. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2016/11/17/502292749/critics-move-to-trash-the-electoral-college-but-its-not-likely-to-work
- 2016 election results. (2016). CNN. Retrieved from: www.cnn.com/election/results
- Kimberling, W.C. (1992). The Electoral College. Washington, D.C.:REC Office of Election Commission.
- Leap, D. (2008). The electoral college. Atlas of Presidential Elections. Retrieved from: http://uselectionatlas.org/INFORMATION/INFORMATION/electcollege_procon.php
- Wolf, R. (2016). Clinton’s popular vote lead surpasses 2 million. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/11/21/election-results-electoral-popular-votes-trump-clinton/94214826/